A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Mainline Will Continue to Be Sidelined...

...says Bishop William Willimon. I quote selected portions from this article published by salisburypost.com.
SALISBURY — Mainline Protestantism in the United States has reached a fork in the road from the post-World War II era to today. The choice: grow or die.

But mainline churches won't grow if they stay where and how they are.

So says Dr. Will Willimon, former dean of the chapel at Duke University and now a bishop in the United Methodist Church in North Alabama.

It's not that people are leaving mainline churches to join these other [Pentecostal and Assembly] churches. Instead, they typically drop out of church-going altogether, Willimon said. "Mainline Protestantism was the last stop."

Why? Mainline churches "had unknowingly given people a theology of godlessness," Willimon said. "We adjusted so much to the culture that the line between church and Rotary seemed rather thin."

"The mainline is going to continue to be sidelined."

Mainline churches became unintentionally exclusionary, he said, by sticking to the same music and worship services and meeting structure. Even contemporary services — which Willimon called a "phase" — rely on music that is 20 years old.

But at least those services show a desire to adapt-- not to please those who are present each Sunday, but rather to take a risk to reach those who are not in church.

"We're trying to adapt to the world," Willimon said. Now it's time to tell the world, "this is what we believe."


Dennis Sanders said...

I think he's right.

Richard H said...

"• Some families are forsaking contemporary services to return to traditional worship."

Willimon considers this a "promising sign."

I really like most of what I've heard from him over the years except for two things.

First, as here, his reactionary traditionalism. I don't see this as a rooting in TRADITION, but plain old traditionalISM. I'd pass this piece on to bunches of people, but so many I know would read that one line and think, "We're the exception. We're doing it right. We just need to keep doing what we've always done. Sooner or later all those younger people (at the other churches) will see the light and come (home) to us." I just don't see it happening.

Second, is his Barthianism. I'd consider myself a friend of Barth, but I'm not so accepting of Kant and the modern philosophical tradition that I feel the need to have such a strong and absolute divide between faith and reason. When I see how Willimon episcopates, it sure looks like there is a powerful tension between that work and his Barthian theology.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Good points indeed.